CU Denver Student Researching Ganja Usage Needs Your Help

Bongs from Heady Glass Galleries in Denver.
Bongs from Heady Glass Galleries in Denver.
Westword file photo.

Most studies on cannabis and cannabis use focus on joints. That's fine and dandy for the most part, but it doesn't really give researchers a true idea of cannabis consumption when a larger part of the cannabis-using population relies on bongs, pipes, oil rigs, vape pens and edibles to get their toke on.

Madeline Morris, a masters' student in Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver says it's time for the methodology of pot research to reflect the change in uses. To help prove that point, Morris has created a survey for Colorado cannabis users -- and now she needs your help, fellow tokers.

See also: "Colorado Alternative Medicine Operations Suspended Following Forged Documents Allegations"

Earlier this week we caught up with Morris, who sent us a link to her study and asked if we could help her get a few more respondents. We agreed, of course, and Morris was kind enough to give us a quick interview in which she talks about how the study came about and what she hopes to gain from the data.

Westword: Why does this interest you? I mean, you probably could have picked any topic, and you chose cannabis.

Madeline Morris: This interests me because I am excited to live in Colorado, where research regarding marijuana is really being pushed. It puts us in a really neat position to pave the road in many ways for the next states tjat legalize it. I did a literature review on marijuana use as part of my practicum project through the Colorado School of Public Health in the retail marijuana program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Before I go further, I'd just like to note that I realize there's a stigma regarding government being the bad guy and looking to give MJ a bad name, but that truly wasn't the motive here. What we were doing was required because it was written into the bill and everything was done in a good, nonbiased scientific manner. I wouldn't have looked the other way and said nothing if that weren't the case, trust me. Through 2014 we reviewed the current scientific literature on certain potential adverse health effects and marijuana use, and it really opened my eyes to how poor study design and surveillance is regarding marijuana use.

Most of the studies are so limited for a lot of reasons, but one that stuck out to me had to do with how investigators classify users and non-users; they make assumptions that everyone who smokes has the same smoking habits. They do it because it's convenient and that's pretty much how the research treats tobacco smokers -- so they base their methods on that.

The thing with marijuana use is that it's not just sold and consumed in joint-form. If it was, it would be a lot easier to describe in the same way we talk about pack-years for tobacco smokers. The thing is, potheads experiment with their "consumption" -- and because of that, we have maybe a dozen different ways to consume it, maybe more if you consider not just the form but the method or vehicle. too. I'd like to describe these differences in Colorado's population because it will tell us if different people choose different methods. It's my educated guess that, at least in Colorado, smoking joints is not the most popular way to get high anymore. If there are big differences, then moving forward with larger, more complicated studies, it could show that we can't assume all who smoke marijuana are the same.

A screen shot from the survey.
A screen shot from the survey.

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What would you hope to achieve with your study? As part of a masters' program, could it help influence future studies in Colorado?

As a young researcher very early in my career, I would be interested in investigating if there is actually a safer method to smoke. We are told that water pipes and filtration systems like percs and such filter out some of the toxins, but there's no actual human research to see if it truly prevents any health issues (if there are any). I'd like to start thinking about that so that Colorado could really take the lead in designing the safest and most efficient methods or vehicles to get lit. So although this is a small personal study, sometimes descriptive data can tell us where we need to improve with future studies.

So there you have it: You can help make marijuana research in this state more accurate just by taking ten minutes to (honestly) fill out the questions. The survey doesn't go into any personal details, but it does test your knowledge of all things pot, including Colorado laws and your ability to judge how much a pre-rolled joint contains. Morris assures us that everything is confidential. Since you're reading this rather than doing whatever work you should be doing, why not just go to the survey site now? Have a tip? Send it to marijuana@westword.com.


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